Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Afghan President Hamid Karzai next to Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba (C) during a photo session at the Tokyo Conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, in Tokyo July 8.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out for the rights of Afghan women during a global forum on the war-torn country in Tokyo, Sunday, July 7, where the international community pledged billions in development aid to Afghanistan.
Clinton also revealed the United States has designated Afghanistan a major non-Nato ally giving it new privileges to access U.S. military supplies and loans for equipment.
"Let me emphasize that the United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve sustainable peace, reconciliation, stability, and economic growth if half the population is not empowered," Clinton said. "All citizens need to have the chance to benefit from and contribute to Afghanistan’s progress, and the United States will continue to stand strongly by the women of Afghanistan."
Clinton's remarks come as the country and the international community have expressed outrage over a disturbing video that surfaced over the weekend showing the public execution of a woman accused of adultery, reminiscent of the era when the Taliban ruled.
Reports said the 22-year-old woman was repeatedly shot in front of a crowd of men after she was found guilty of adultery with a Taliban commander. The Afghan government and U.S. embassy condemned the killing, and authorities said they have launched an investigation into the killing.
While Afghan women have reappeared in schools, at the voting box, and public life in general, violence against them has increased in recent months, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recently warned. The organization found 58 cases of so-called "honor killings," or attempts, in which men kill a woman after she is raped or has otherwise "dishonored" her family, over the last three months.
Clinton, the U.S.' third female Sec. of State, again raised the issue of women's place in a democracy when speaking two days later on Monday, July 9, at the International Women's Leadership Forum in Mongolia.
"If there is one characteristic that every strong democracy in the world shares, it is that they are fully open to all of their citizens—men and women—and a democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms," Clinton said. "So whenever we talk about how to support democracy, we must be sure that women are not just a part of the discussion, but at the table to help lead that discussion, and to remain committed to helping more women worldwide gain roles in their governments, their economies, and their civil societies."